Visibly inspired on the final night of their 2011 run at The Beacon Theatre, the Allman Brothers Band played with a formidable balance of delicacy and abandon during both sets of their own material and in accompanying an array of guests (as is the custom during the annual New York run).
Assembling before the video screen as it showed the old saying "There's No Place Like Home" (this marked the group's 200th appearance overall at the Broadway venue), ABB shot through a brisk opening with "Hot' Lanta" and went on to develop "Ain't Wastin' Time No More" in more expansive fashion. Guitarists Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes each took extended solos there and flexed their muscles even further in a call-and-response duel during "Every Hungry Woman." "Midnight Rider," then, was the only set piece in this mini-suite as a fiery run through of the instrumental "Kind of Bird" concluded this segment of the proceedings: the similarities to "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" were unmistakable, most importantly in the deft dynamics the group executed.
Welcoming the first few of an array of guests found the Brothers delving into the blues with guitarist Hubert Sumlin (once sideman to Howlin' Wolf), frequent guest of Gov't Mule harpist Hook Herrera and pianist Bruce Katz from Gregg's solo band: "Smokestack Lightening" was of a piece with "Key to the Highway." The Allmans didn't quite jell for "Walk On Gilded Splinters" with Dr. John though: the insinuating groove he was aiming for was far removed from the more rhythmically pronounced arrangement ABB has favored in recent years. ABB did, however, fall right in line behind the Gris Gris man during "Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)" as the latter led on electric guitar, then moved back to the piano for a ragged but nonetheless harmonious run-through of "Right Place Wrong Time" with Susan Tedeschi and Nigel Hall on backing vocals. The informal family atmosphere in the theatre was palpable on the stage and throughout the gorgeously renovated theatre.
The Allmans nailed each of the selections they offered during their second set, beginning with Haynes' domination of "Dreams." Gregg Allman took a less than prominent role during much of this evening but sang to his soul here as he did a bit later on "One Way Out" where Joe Ely's guitarist David Grissom acquitted himself more than a little favorably next to Trucks.
The intensity elevated to almost savage levels as The Brothers moved into "Black Hearted Woman" and Trucks navigated them adroitly in and out of their now customary jam on "The Other One," before the blues theme that begun in the previous set continued with "Who's Been Talking," only to be followed by an easy-going shuffle through Bob Dylan's "It Takes A Lot to Laugh It Takes a Train to Cry:" not a master of irony, Gregg nevertheless delivered The Bard's slightly tongue in cheek observations with dry wit.
In a move of perfect pacing to conclude the set, ABB took flight on "Jessica," inspiring Katz, not the most fluent of pianists, to play a solo where each note rang with the clarity of the guitars. The bright mood continued when the band returned to the stage to the sound of Trucks and Haynes softly picking the Eat A Peach duet "Little Martha," when bassist Oteil Burbridge hit the massive rumbling intro to "Whipping Post," the juxtaposition was startling, made even more so as the septet delved into this, the very first song Gregg ever brought to the Brothers. While Derek finds the melancholy underneath the meanness of the lyrics in this tune, Warren reveals how the light of its melody casts the shadow within the alternately insistent and relentless rhythm.
As the guests segued smoothly on an off stage and no drum solo undermined the momentum that grew inexorably during the three plus hours of music, The Allman Brothers deserved both the standing ovation from the Beacon audience as well as the hugs they offered each other as they left the stage.
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